Linebacker Patrick Willis recently had surgery on his fractured right hand, the third time the 49ers' inside linebacker has had a procedure on the hand since 2010.
Willis suffered the latest break on July 31 when, during a one-on-one pass-rush drill, his hand struck the leg of fullback Bruce Miller. ESPN, which first noted the surgery, reported that Willis would be back in three weeks. The 49ers will host Green Bay in the regular-season opener two weeks after that.
Even if Willis' hand is not fully recovered by then, recent history indicates that he still could play - and play at a high level - with a cast on the hand. He's broken a finger or a bone in his right hand four times since he was a junior at Ole Miss in 2005. He broke a bone in the hand during his rookie season in 2007 and still led the NFL in tackles that season.
The most serious injury came in December 2010 when he fractured the hand and had pins inserted. He played the following two weeks with a cast on the hand but further damaged it in the penultimate game of the season against St. Louis. With the 49ers out of playoff contention that year, Willis had a second surgery and sat out the season finale, the first game he had missed in his career to that point.
Michael Wilhoite has filled in for Willis in the last week and likely will be in the "Jack" linebacker spot Thursday against Denver. Other inside linebackers include sixth-round pick Nick Moody, Nate Stupar and undrafted rookie Travis Johnson.
-- Matt Barrows